Paradigm Shifters is a series of interviews with a select group of women from eclectic walks of life. It will highlight unspoken, real life insights on how women have been able to turn weakness into strength. A naked soul point of view of how their breakdowns were really a preparation for breakthroughs. They are your quintessential Paradigm Shifters; internal shifts converted into genuine change.
Everything I have ever done has been focused on this underlying theme of shifting the paradigm because, "what we think determines what we feel and what we feel determines what we do." Hence why Seven Bar Foundation and Empowered by You takes lingerie, which has traditionally been seen merely as a tool of seduction and redirected that energy as a tool of empowerment.
I hope from these stories you will look at your own situations, struggles and accomplishments through a different lens. At the very least you will be more equipped with real-life tools to change your own paradigm. At the end of the day we are our own Alchemist turning the silver we were born with into the gold are destined to become.
Cindy Gallop is the founder of IfWeRanTheWorld, a website allowing people and businesses to take action on their good intentions, and also of Make Love Not Porn, an initiative to inspire openness about real life sexual relationships, launched at TED Talks in 2009.
Renata: Since the first time I heard you speak 4 years ago, I have been following you as I have always been fascinated by how you shift the paradigm in everything you do. What are your main passion points at the moment?
Cindy: Both of my start-ups were complete accidents. I very serendipitously ended up with two early-stage internet companies that reflect the two sides of me. IfWeRanTheWorld is my attempt to redesign the future of business, while Make Love Not Porn is my attempt to redesign the future of sex. Everything I'm doing is a manifestation of my own personal and business philosophies, which have shaped them.
I believe the future of business is about doing good and making money simultaneously. I believe the business model of the future is: Shared Value + Shared Action = Shared Profit (financial profit and social profit). I want to see businesses integrating social responsibility into day-to-day operations, making it a key driver of future growth and profitability. When brands, companies and businesses come together with their communities on the basis of shared values, and are then enabled to act on them together, this creates benefit for consumers, for society and for the business itself.
Make Love Not Porn is what you are best known for as it went viral after you launched it in a TED Talk a few years back. What inspired you to come up with this concept?
Make Love Not Porn was, truly, a total accident. I date younger men, usually men in their twenties. Through dating younger men, I encountered an issue that would never have crossed my mind otherwise. When today's freedom of access to online hardcore porn meets our society's complete reluctance to talk openly and honestly about sex, the result is that porn becomes the replacement for sex education. I found myself encountering a number of, if you like, sexual behavioral memes. It made me think, "If I'm experiencing this, other people will be as well." And I wanted to do something about it.
Five years ago, I put up on no money, a very basic, clunky website at MakeLoveNotPorn.com that exposes the myths of hardcore porn, balancing them with reality. I had the opportunity to launch Make Love Not Porn at TED and deliberately used explicit language. I knew that audience wouldn't fully understand the issue unless I was very straightforward. I am, to this day, the only TED speaker to have ever uttered the words "cum on my face" on the TED stage. Six times in succession, to be exact.
Make Love Not Porn is not anti-porn. The issue isn't porn, but the absence of an open, healthy, honest and truthful conversation about sex in our society. Our message is simple. We are "pro-sex, pro-porn, pro-knowing the difference."
I noticed on Facebook you often use the hashtag, "#startupstress." I love how vocal you are about how hard start-ups are in world where being an entrepreneur is idolized. Have you had a breakdown from the stresses of starting a business that has led you to a breakthrough in your career?
No, I've never had a breakdown. About three years ago, I decided that I was going to be very open about all of my battles and the stresses of a start up. I'm an entrepreneur. I have two early stage start ups and neither of them is making money at a level at which I can afford to pay myself, so I pay the mortgage through consulting work and public speaking. I don't want to make my life look incredibly glamorous to my followers on Facebook or Twitter. Superficially, it could be easy to mistakenly suppose that, because I travel a lot for business and I'm lucky enough to be paid to go speak in some very exotic places. But my life is hardly glamorous. I want to be open about the struggle to build your own business and #startupstress helps tell the real story.
I'm interested Cindy, how is it that you've never had a breakdown?
I live my own business philosophies. IfWeRanTheWorld is what I call "emotional software." It is a combination of technology and psychology, and ultimately, it delivers Action Branding, a form of self-identification and self-expression based on the philosophy that I am what I do, I am the sum of my actions.
Action is transformative. When you're depressed, or feeling really down - do something. It doesn't matter what it is. Take a microaction. Taking a microaction, however tiny, makes you feel like you are taking charge of your life and your circumstances. This enables you to reach out and take another step, and then another. Taking action makes you feel completely differently about yourself and what you're capable of. I channel depression and worry into action. My most motivating dynamic is the one that I characterize as I'm gonna fucking well show you. If you tell me it can't be done, I'm gonna fucking well show you. Put an obstacle in my way, well I'm gonna fucking well show you. I take obstacles, frustration, anger, and I turn them into motivation.
I've noticed, sadly, more men than women have supported me throughout my career. I'm curious to hear about which sex has supported you more in the work you do. What is the feedback you receive from men and women?
I have never found women to be anything less than utterly supportive throughout my entire career and life. But I know the syndrome you are talking about, of women not supporting women. That syndrome is inadvertently and unconsciously driven by men. I call it 'Highlander Syndrome'. It occurs in predominantly male-dominated environments, where the nature of the environment means that when it comes to women, 'There can be only one'. For example, in many corporate environments there is only room for one woman at the top, on the board, on the management team, in the meeting etc. This perpetuates the unfortunate dynamic of women competing with each other rather than supporting each other.
If you were to name being 54 as a chapter in your life, what would you name this chapter?
"Happiness," Honestly, the older I get, the better life gets. It's fantastic. And by the way, I tell everybody how old I am as often as possible, because I consider myself a proudly visible member of the most invisible segment of our society - older women. I want to help redefine how society thinks an older woman should look, talk, dress, and date, all by the way I live my life.
I have followed Cindy and her work for many years simply because of her genuine transparency and full throttle approach to life. This interview was an injection of inspiration for me.
I think for all of us who have sacrificed the traditional way of life to fulfill our purpose in life, see Cindy as the definition of, "its so worth it." It comes as no surprise that she is the quintessential Paradigms Shifter. Put in her own words, "I take obstacles, frustration, anger, and I turn them into motivation."